The genesis of the meal was that a couple of weeks ago I had the startlingly rare experience of having some stock options that vested while they were not underwater, so this time I jumped right in to exercise and sell. I decided that the thing to do with this money was to take my friend Michael out for a steak dinner at a local upscale establishment. Michael, you see, has been having some health issues for many months, but the cause has been found and he is on the mend and this deserves a celebratory meal. Ok, just getting up in the morning on any random day deserves a celebratory meal in my book, but it's nice to have a hook. Then I thought some more and realized that the windfall was enough to invite Tera and Jan -- very good friends of Michael's in particular and mine as well -- to turn this into more of a party. I chose Harry's because it is a sort of retro establishment with a festive air where I have had a couple of good food experiences.
Everybody was gratifyingly excited at the invitation. Jan said she felt as if she'd won the lottery, which come to think of it is how I felt about the money as well.
How do you describe the feelings of meals like this, since their great pleasure is their ephemeral nature? It was a pleasant late fall night, already long dark at our 6pm meeting time. I was sitting in a comfortable banquette looking out the window at the city scene in a corner of downtown Minneapolis, drinking a gin and tonic which always makes me happy. Michael arrived all nicely dressed from work, with one of those goofy grins we all live to see. Jan and Tera arrived in equally good spirits. You know, any event where all of the participants arrive in good spirits simply to be out and with each other, anticipating some nice food and drink, is going to go well.
We're all four of us Morris dancers, so first we talked a bit about what we would order to drink. This discussion alone was enough fun to make an evening. Michael joined me in my gin and tonic, Jan had a nice bourbon, and Tera a fine whiskey. I had ordered us a plowman's platter of cheese and cured meats which turned out to be surprisingly wonderful, despite it's simplicity: cheddar cheese with honey, plus some sort of pickles, plus goat cheese, plus salami and cured meat, plus beets and mustard, plus some other things I'm forgetting with beautiful little toasts of fresh bread. Jan pointed out later that this is the sort of thing you would return to the restaurant for, just to order that and have a drink.
So why was it all so swimmingly fun? I don't know. We didn't get around to ordering our food for a while, as Michael caught all of us up with his medical doings except that we kept getting distracted to other topics. People, food, drink, dance, Jan's jewelry business. I ordered us a nice shrimp cocktail to carry us over while we further discussed dinner.
And these were our dinners: Jan had a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with a maple glaze on a surprise bed of spinach that was flavored with something delicious that I don't think we identified. I had giant seared scallops over orzo with spinach. I told Michael he needed to have the ribeye with potatoes and vegetables, to build himself back up to full health, and so he did and he claimed it was perfect. Tera had the restaurant's specialty of pot roast, out of which she ultimately wound up making a total of three meals; she claimed it was fork-tender and delicious. We chose our wines by the glass to complement our meals, and Michael is still talking about his Shiraz.
Smiles and laughter and relaxation, that was the theme.
You might think there wouldn't be room for dessert, but remember that we were there for well over two hours and the portions at this restaurant are reasonably sized and remember as well that we are Morris dancers. Even those of us who claimed we couldn't possibly eat any dessert managed to share. Two desserts for four: Molten chocolate cake with lingonberry sauce, and warm gingerbread cake with vanilla bean caramel and creme fraiche. Our server knew we were sharing and I believe we had larger than standard portions. It's a cliche to close your eyes and ooh and ah over forkfuls of dessert, but we couldn't help ourselves, really.
Here's a part I really liked: I love that when the bill came I just reached into my pocket and pulled out a wad of cash and treated my friends. It felt so good to do this. I know that we could have gone to my apartment for spaghetti and garlic bread and have had just as lovely of an evening. But there was a specialness to the situation, as if the money came from nowhere just to give us a good time.
I wish you all could have been there. I really do.